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Jul, 12 2011

Fitness in franchising

How can one not be tempted when the food industry is simply getting better? Is weight or muscle flexibility coming in your way? Hitting a gym can be your new lifestyle.

AS we all know obesity and sedentary lifestyles are often scoffed at. Moreover, it's causing a severe problem in India. With the coming of “size zero” disorder, fad of having six to eight pack abs and Bollywood star's fetish for fitness is touted as the strongest inspiration for the youth today.

With consumer's concern for a fit body and mind, the potential of fitness industry is greater than ever before. With sudden profusion of foreign brands and influence of film stars in India, people are becoming more conscious of their day-to-day fitness regime and they make no compromises when it comes to fitness. Along with the fitness sector, fitness equipment industry is also brimming with opportunities.

Business potential

According to experts, fitness industry is currently pegged at Rs 800 crore. The industry is definitely on the rise and will show tremendous improvement in the coming years. Comparing with the western market, Indian consumers have never been fitness conscious, but with foreign brands coming into the Indian market, people now clearly understand the need gaps.

Major drivers behind the market's growth are  dissemination by media, changing perception of Indians that gymming is not only about pumping iron, altering lifestyle, growing middleclass income and rising consciousness about the need of regular exercise and following a healthy diet are some of the major growth drivers. Pointing on another growth driver in fitness domain, Srilekha Reddy, Marketing Director of Snap Fitness, says, “Another drive for this growth is the corporate segment with companies having a greater focus on employee health and welfare.”

In order to tap the market's remaining share, fitness labels are tying up with juice parlours, nutrition experts and players that deliver fitness equipment. By taking a leap ahead to target more customers, the industry has started diversifying into the other segments too, by tying up with industry leaders to leverage more services to consumers under one roof.

For instance, Talwalkars HIFI, especially designed for small and medium towns, is being there in the market by making fitness available to all the segments. Besides, Force Fitness also has an exclusive distributorship for Aqua Spa, a dry hydrotherapy massage.

Franchising scope

The fitness industry is being dominated by a couple of players such as Gold's Gym, Talwalkars, Vivafit, Snap Fitness, Curves India, FitnessOne, Fitness First, Celebrity Fitness, Powerhouse Gym, Anytime Fitness, Contours International and LesMills International. Franchising in the fitness industry is deemed to burst out, as it opens new avenues of growth for young entrepreneurs, who wish to run their own gym with flexibility and minimised threats.

In India, Force Fitness is the master franchisor of America's Snap Fitness. By expressing the feasibility of fitness industry, Reddy, enlightens, “Franchising in the fitness industry has its pros and cons. Franchising is important to leverage on local strengths and to grow at a rapid pace, but an audit team is important to ensure that services are on par at all the franchised centres and the brand image does not suffer.”

In this highly customer-centric business, offering standardised operations is the way to draw more footfalls. Manisha Ahlawat, master franchisee of Portugal's women only gym chain- Vivafit, notifies, “We provide a 10-day training in operations, sales and marketing at our franchisee support office in Gurgaon. The franchisee and their staff will also get to do an internship at the pilot centre to get a hands-on experience in running a Vivafit centre. There will be support and additional training programmes the franchisee can avail from time to time.” In case of Talwalkars HIFI, after the theoretical training, trainees are sent to different locations to undergo practical training where their work is supervised by head of departments. Talking about the brand's extension into other services, Madhukar Talwalkar, Director, Talwalkars HIFI, says, “Presently, we are supplying gym goods through our vendor partners, but we do plan to start manufacturing goods at Talwalkars HIFI and we also plan to provide our franchisees with extended segment services.”

Spreading wings

Capital investment to open a gym ranges between lakhs and crores with a break-even of one to two years. In this highly competitive market, the organised market is working progressively towards combating competition at local-level by offering customised and specialised services to gym goers.

By intensifying the pace of its expansion spree, Reddy says, “Force Fitness is looking at opening 300 clubs in the next three years.” On the other side, Vivafit is all set to add to this growth by opening 200 centres in the next three years by way of franchising. Elaborating on industry's growth, Talwalkar informs us, “We see the fitness industry growing immensely in the coming years. We are sure to hit the target of 300 franchise gyms in three years.”

Speed breakers

Fitness industry is facing a lot of obstacles. Some of them include service orientation, a critical domain that makes it difficult for a big player to start from the scratch, shortage of experienced trainers and club partners, retaining the existing members, unavailability of accessible location and sky-rocketing property prices. “Force Fitness offers round-the-year marketing support in terms of pre-sales, monthly events, creative, PR, corporate tie-ups and monthly promotions. Club reviews are held at the corporate office to manage sales and training. All recruitment needs for franchised clubs are taken care of by the corporate office,” notifies Reddy.

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Going gloc(b)al

Capital needed to open a gym ranges between lakhs and crores with a break-even of around two years. To have a cut above the rest, the organised market is working to combat competition at local-level by offering customised and specialised services to gym goers.

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